US Slides Further in Corruption Perception

February 3, 2021
LRN Corporation

The perceived corruption of the U.S. public sector decreased to its lowest level since 2012, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople on a scale of zero to 100, where zero is "highly corrupt" and 100 is "very clean."

The U.S. scored a 67 in the latest index, which is published annually by TI, a global NGO focused on stopping out corruption and promoting accountability and integrity across all levels of society.

The U.S. had the 25th best score out of the 180 countries included. This year’s score of 67 is a two-point drop from the last CPI, which, while not statistically significant on its own, is part of a troubling multi-year downward trend. In fact, the downward trend has put the U.S. on Transparency International’s “countries to watch” list. The U.S. has dropped six points since 2012.

The CPI this year took a close look at how corruption impacts a country's ability to respond to a crisis such as COVID-19, including how well leaders stuck to the rule of law, according to Transparency International.

Analysis showed countries with lower corruption levels invest more in healthcare, deliver wider health coverage, and are less likely to undermine democratic institutions.

"Attacks by the previous administration on a landmark anti-bribery law, on whistleblowers with evidence of fraud and corruption in the government, on oversight of pandemic relief funding, and on the nation’s electoral process were all likely factors impacting assessments of corruption in the United States," Gary Kalman, director of the U.S. Office of Transparency International, said in a statement.

"Add to all that the release of the FinCEN Files documenting failures in the nation’s protections against money laundering, and it is safe to say it was a difficult and troubling year for anti-corruption advocates," he said.

Transparency International’s U.S. office said it sees the potential for a reversal of trends in the future. It cited as reasons the Corporate Transparency Act, passed with bipartisan support on the first day of 2021, and early positive signs from the Biden administration.

The U.S. has a "real opportunity to stop our slide toward disunity and dysfunction, and to get back on track," said Scott Greytak, advocacy director for Transparency International’s U.S. office. The Biden Administration needs to work with Congress to pass an anti-corruption agenda to both repair issues at home and lead the cause abroad, he said.

The Americas region as a whole scored poorly, with an average regional score of 43. Canada led the pack with a 77; the worst performer was Venezuela with 15. The worldwide leaders are Denmark and New Zealand, which each scored 88. Finland, Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore followed, each with an 85. On the other end are Somalia and South Sudan, each scoring a 12.

About the Author

LRN Corporation

Ethics and compliance leader providing tools, education, and advisory services for global companies to inspire principled performance. LRN’s overall approach recognizes the inherent limitations of rules and regulations in influencing behaviors. In our view, focusing on actions that help build and maintain a values-based culture will mean more compliance and reduced costs as a result of tangible and sustainable behavioral change.

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